Summer camp for kids – it’s not just roasting marshmallows and singing songs around the fire – and not every camp experience is right for every child. From day camps to sleepover camps, kids have more choices in camp experiences than weeks of summer vacation. However, you might be wondering: Is my child really ready for summer camp?
Begin with day camps.
You can usually find these through community education programs and summer vacation Bible school camps. These are often theme based, minimally priced, and run for a few hours each day for a week or so. Vacation Bible School (commonly referred to across the country as VBS) was our children’s first foray into the “camp” experience. If you or your little one is hesitant about the idea of camp, look for these mini-camps that have certain characteristics.
- You can remain on site and volunteer as an adult helper. Sometimes this will even get you a reduced rate on camp fees.
- The hours of the camp work well with your child’s natural schedule. If you have a preschooler who naps in the afternoon, look for camps with morning-only hours.
- Check for small ratios of adult leaders to kids. When groups get too large, it can be easy for your child to feel lost in the shuffle.
Make sure sleepover camp is the right choice.
Ask you and your child if sleep-away or sleepover camp is the right choice. Some kids love the adventure and have independent mindsets that help them do well at sleep-away camps, while others are more prone to become homesick, feel isolated, or simply not enjoy the constant camp life for days on end. Ask some basic questions before signing up your child for sleepover camp.
- Who is most interested in sleep-away camp – me or my child? (Some parents look for sleep-away camps for their own daycare support or because they have fond memories of their own camp experiences – but beware if these are your reasons.)
- Has my child been on sleepovers before without getting homesick?
- Will my child be able to contact me if and when she wants? (We bought our daughter her first cell phone just for this purpose.)
- Is there a friend or cousin with whom my child can attend camp?
- Does the camp have a mentorship program where adults check in with each child individually to make sure that he or she is feeling at ease?
- What are the sleeping arrangements? (Kids who fear the dark or are uncomfortable sharing a room with new kids might find certain sleep-away camps less enticing.)
- What are the discipline policies of the camp? (When kids do sleepover camps they can sometimes get fewer hours of sleep than needed and be more prone to behavior problems.)
- Does my child like to be consistently busy? (Kids who thrive on quiet, alone-time each day might struggle more with sleep-away camp.)
- Are background checks performed on camp employees and volunteers?
If there is a question you want to ask the camp organization – don’t hesitate to do so. Going into the camp experience with preparation, for both you and your child, will help ensure a better camp experience. You can even take this little quiz if you’re still doubting your decision (but if you’re doubting it that much, maybe you need to wait for next year to pack the sleeping bags for your kids).
Find a summer camp that interests your child.
Just because you loved creaky bunk beds and canoeing at your own childhood camp doesn’t mean that your child has the same desires. There are camps for almost every interest in communities across the country. Our daughter attended a business camp for young entrepreneurs when she was just 12 years old. It was based at a local college where the campers stayed in the dorms and the kids worked in the community throughout the week on business projects that culminated in their business teams presenting products for sale at a baseball game.
Save money on summer camps.
Camps for kids can be extremely expensive, but your child can still have a great summer camp experience without draining your bank account. The following sites have some great tips for saving money on summer camp experiences for kids, such as sibling discounts and saving money on camp supplies.